Friday, 30 January 2009

SOMERS TOWN


An area of London, south of Camden Town, Somers Town is surrounded by Euston Road, Eversholt Street and Pancras Road. Today, it plays host to a street market and inspired Shane Meadow's latest film.
When Tomo (Thomas Turgoose) arrives in London after leaving his Nottingham home, the harsh realities of life in our capital city come crshing down during his first night out. After procuring a pack of beer from an off licence, Tomo encounters a trio of streetwise chancers who subject him to a good kicking and make off with his bag of wordly possessions. So far, so bad, until Tomo meets Polish teenager Marek (Piotr Jagiello) in a cafe, striking up a friendship that will launch them on an exciting trip. During the course of its 65 minute running time, SOMERS TOWN is smart, extremely funny and maintains its director's reputation for delivering small, beautifully formed (e)motion pictures. Here, the relationship between Tomo and Marek elevates proceedings into a completely uplifting 'buddy' movie, while managing to cram in several other gorgeously 'real' performances from amongst the cast of unknowns. Marek's father Mariusz (Ireneusz Czop), a Channel Tunnel labourer who spends his days working and his nights out on the piss; beautiful French waitress Maria (Elisa Lasowski) and a wonderful cockney spiv who flogs such rarities as Terry (sic) Henry t- shirts and enlists two pairs of idle hands to assist him.
As Marek proceeds to help his friend, while attempting to conceal the truth from his father, Maria stays just out of reach from boyfriend Marek and her new admirer. The end result is an intoxicating mix of life, love and family bonds, installing magic into an area that has little of its own. While the subject matter is often grim and compelling, Meadow's laces his film with several dollops of totally addictive humour: check out the scene where Tomo and Marek empty the contents of a stolen laundry bag, and prepare yourself for a priceless moment where a naked Tomo is caught red (make that single) handed with a bunch of photos of Maria.

As 65 minutes simply fly, one can't help but feel disappointed by the introduction of the end credits, as these are characters we'd love to spend more time with. Better, then, to take this as a snapshot of moments in time from the lives of others. Images captured on celluloid that can replayed, just like memories of past sights and sounds from your own life, played out by people who were there for a short while and went on their way. Shane Meadows is fast becoming one of my favourite director's and this - his latest film - stacks up as one of the best British films of the past 12 months. SOMERS TOWN is an absolute joy, and deserves your attention.

Monday, 26 January 2009

SPOTLIGHT ON THE BLOGS

Head on over to Keith's COOLNESS IS TIMELESS blog and check out his review of THE AMBUSHERS. A must for all you Matt Helm fans.
http://coolnessistimeless.blogspot.com/2009/01/dean-martin-as-matt-helm-in-ambushers.html

Friday, 23 January 2009

CASS



"The hardest fight is knowing who you are".
Six weeks after birth, Cass Pennant was put into a Dr. Barnado's home, and went on to be fostered by a white couple in Kent where he was the only coloured person in the town. Pennant became the victim of bullies at school and on his way home; a situation made worse by his christian name, Carol. Soon Pennant decided to change his forename to Cass, after the boxer Cassius Clay. A reluctant student on the school of hard knocks, Pennant was introduced to football and began to follow West Ham United home and away. It was here that things started to turn round, with The Hammers' hooligan following offering him a second home amongst one of the country's most notorious firms and a chance to fight back and become accepted by those arround him. Tales of the infamous 'Mile End' mob had travelled the country for years, joined by another bogeyman: the Inter city Firm. For some, Upton Park - home of West Ham - became a virtual no-go area for following your team, and those who did make the trip were always assured of a warm 'welcome'. The name of Cass Pennant became legendary amongst rival firms, and now we have a film which has already been a great success on DVD.

Directed by Jon S. Baird, CASS takes us through Pennant's formative years; his first encounter with football violence, and his relationships leading to a shooting during his new career on the doors of clubs. As a bio pic, CASS often scores highly with Nonso Anozie's central performance soliciting emotion and admiration for a life punctuated by racism and a burning desire to eventually find redemption. Here, it's the quieter and more sombre moments that really hit home: his foster mother's funeral; the moving scene where Cass declines to read the letters sent by his 'real' parents, and his eventual friendship with a black guy sharing his cell all succeed in painting the picture as do solid performances from Nathalie Press as his partner, and Tamar Hassan playing an ex-con.
Unfortunately, the film does miss-fire on occasions. 3 rucks between rival fans fail to adequately convey football violence in truly graphic terms, compelling one to initially question the 18 certificate (although the ubiquitous presence of the word 'cunt' explains that one away)and footage of the appalling Margaret Thatcher and the Millwall riot at Luton are just a few of the directorial choices that could have been left on the cutting room floor. Still, CASS is, for the most part, a more than decent account of an orphan who rose to become a terrace legend and respected author.
Look out for cameos from the great Frank Bruno, and from actual firm members including Bill Gardener and Gilly from Wolves.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

THE WRESTLER


We're barely three weeks into the New Year, and it's already a very busy time at the cinema. With the BAFTAS on the horizon,many film fans are faced with making some difficult choices as the recession really takes hold. Yesterday, we arrived at Derby's splendid Cinema De Lux, with our eyes on four films and money for just the one. SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, THE READER, AUSTRALIA and THE WRESTLER (oh, and you can throw in a 3D MY BLOODY VALENTINE for good measure if you want).

Let's talk Mickey Rourke! Back in the day,MR was the dog's bollocks as far as I was concerned. DINER, RUMBLE FISH, THE POPE OF GREENWICH VILLAGE, ANGEL HEART, YEAR OF THE DRAGON... the list goes on. Like De Niro, he's done shifts on pay-the-rent fare and controversy has dogged him for years, but memories of those golden years still burn brightly.
So, we found ourselves in the plush 'Director's Hall' eagerly awaiting THE WRESTLER. Here, Rourke plays Randy 'The Ram' Robinson; a fucked-up canvas man who once pounded the boards (and heads)at major venues, and is now reduced to appearing at 5th-rate halls, driven by bills, steroids and burnt-out memories.Randy's life outside the ring reflects his past and present career: a daughter who disowns the father who walked out on her life and a stripper/hostess (the excellent Marisa Tomei) who - like Randy - is finding the years catching up on her, as attention gravitates towards the younger clan. Life both inside and outside the ring is dirty, seedy, extremely bloody and, ultimately, depressing in the extreme. And yet, THE WRESTLER is totally absorbing viewing from start to finish, with Rourke turning in a powerhouse of a performance. Some may argue that Mickey boy is simply drawing on some of his past experiences here, but be assured this role took real guts to take on and nail down to such a heart rending extent. At times, Aronofsky's film is brutal, look away cinema with a savage intensity that tries and ( in my case) succeeds in putting the viewer firmly on the ropes, but it's the quieter, more subtle moments that really leave a scar: wrestlers trading on former glories waiting to sign books for an audience that left years ago; an emotional meeting where father and daughter visit places from good times she can't even recall and a scene in a deli that's both funny and extremely moving. This is Aronofsky's RAGING BULL; a return to the human decay of BARFLY for its leading actor and a gruelling experience for all.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

SPOTLIGHT ON THE BLOGS

Check out Ian Smith's review of Gus Van Sant's MILK. Ian attended a special screening last night at the BFI Southbank in London. Van Sant was in attendance for a Q&A and... well, I'll let Ian do the honours. Well worth reading.
http://irascian.blogspot.com/2009_01_01_archive.html

THE BAFTA NOMINATIONS 2009

This years BAFTA awards will take place on 8th February, at The Royal Opera House in London. BAFTA was founded in 1947 by David Lean, Alexander Korda, Carol Reed and Roger Manvell who collaborated with others to form a society devoted to supporting, developing and promoting art via the moving image. In 1976, the name was changed to The British Academy of Film and Television Arts.
Members of the public can vote in the cataegory for The Orange Rising Star award, which recognises five international actors and actresses who have demonstrated exceptional talent and have begun to capture the imagination of the public as a star in the making. The five nominees are: Michael Cera, Noel Clarke, Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Hall, Toby Kebbell. Please take time to cast your vote either online or via text:
Vote online at orange.co.uk/bafta

Michael Cera (text CERA to 82058)
Noel Clarke (text CLARKE to 82058)
Michael Fassbender (text FASSBENDER to 82058)
Rebecca Hall (text HALL to 82058)
Toby Kebbell (text KEBBELL to 82058)
*Text cost 25p plus a standard network charge. Network charges may vary
And now for the nominations:

BEST FILM

THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON – Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall, Ceán Chaffin
FROST/NIXON – Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Brian Grazer, Ron Howard
MILK – Dan Jinks, Bruce Cohen
THE READER – Anthony Minghella, Sydney Pollack, Donna Gigliotti, Redmond Morris
SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE – Christian Colson

OUTSTANDING BRITISH FILM

HUNGER – Laura Hastings-Smith, Robin Gutch, Steve McQueen, Enda Walsh
IN BRUGES – Graham Broadbent, Pete Czernin, Martin McDonagh
MAMMA MIA! – Judy Craymer, Gary Goetzman, Phyllida Lloyd, Catherine Johnson
MAN ON WIRE – Simon Chinn, James Marsh
SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE – Christian Colson, Danny Boyle, Simon Beaufoy

THE CARL FOREMAN AWARD
for Special Achievement by a British Director, Writer or Producer for their First Feature Film
SIMON CHINN (Producer) – Man On Wire
JUDY CRAYMER (Producer) – Mamma Mia!
GARTH JENNINGS (Writer) – Son of Rambow
STEVE McQUEEN (Director/Writer) – Hunger
SOLON PAPADOPOULOS, ROY BOULTER (Producers) – Of Time And The City

DIRECTOR

CHANGELING – Clint Eastwood
THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON – David Fincher
FROST/NIXON – Ron Howard
THE READER – Stephen Daldry
SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE – Danny Boyle
ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
BURN AFTER READING – Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
CHANGELING – J. Michael Straczynski
I’VE LOVED YOU SO LONG – Philippe Claudel
IN BRUGES – Martin McDonagh
MILK – Dustin Lance Black

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY


THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON – Eric Roth
FROST/NIXON – Peter Morgan
THE READER – David Hare
REVOLUTIONARY ROAD – Justin Haythe
SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE – Simon Beaufoy

FILM NOT IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE
THE BAADER MEINHOF COMPLEX – Bernard Eichinger, Uli Edel
GOMORRAH – Domenico Procacci, Matteo Garrone
I'VE LOVED YOU SO LONG – Yves Marmion, Philippe Claudel
PERSEPOLIS – Marc-Antoine Robert, Xavier Rigault, Marjane Satrapi, Vincent Paronnaud
WALTZ WITH BASHIR – Serge Lalou, Gerhard Meixner, Yael Nahl Ieli, Ari Folman

ANIMATED FILM

PERSEPOLIS – Marjane Satrapi, Vincent Paronnaud
WALL•E – Andrew Stanton
WALTZ WITH BASHIR – Ari Folman

LEADING ACTOR

FRANK LANGELLA – Frost/Nixon
DEV PATEL – Slumdog Millionaire
SEAN PENN – Milk
BRAD PITT – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
MICKEY ROURKE – The Wrestler

LEADING ACTRESS

ANGELINA JOLIE – Changeling
KRISTIN SCOTT THOMAS – I’ve Loved You So Long
MERYL STREEP – Doubt
KATE WINSLET – The Reader
KATE WINSLET – Revolutionary Road

SUPPORTING ACTOR

ROBERT DOWNEY JR. – Tropic Thunder
BRENDAN GLEESON – In Bruges
PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN – Doubt
HEATH LEDGER – The Dark Knight
BRAD PITT – Burn After Reading

SUPPORTING ACTRESS

AMY ADAMS – Doubt
PENÉLOPE CRUZ – Vicky Cristina Barcelona
FREIDA PINTO – Slumdog Millionaire
TILDA SWINTON – Burn After Reading
MARISA TOMEI – The Wrestler

MUSIC

THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON – Alexandre Desplat
THE DARK KNIGHT – Hans Zimmer, James Newton Howard
MAMMA MIA! – Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus
SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE – A. R. Rahman
WALL•E – Thomas Newman

CINEMATOGRAPHY

CHANGELING – Tom Stern
THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON – Claudio Miranda
THE DARK KNIGHT – Wally Pfister
THE READER – Chris Menges, Roger Deakins
SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE – Anthony Dod Mantle

EDITING **

CHANGELING – Joel Cox, Gary D. Roach
THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON – Kirk Baxter, Angus Wall
THE DARK KNIGHT – Lee Smith
FROST/NIXON – Mike Hill, Dan Hanley
IN BRUGES – Jon Gregory
SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE – Chris Dickens
**As there was a tie in this category there are six nominations

PRODUCTION DESIGN

CHANGELING – James J. Murakami, Gary Fettis
THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON – Donald Graham Burt, Victor J. Zolfo
THE DARK KNIGHT – Nathan Crowley, Peter Lando
REVOLUTIONARY ROAD – Kristi Zea, Debra Schutt
SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE – Mark Digby, Michelle Day

COSTUME DESIGN

CHANGELING – Deborah Hopper
THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON – Jacqueline West
THE DARK KNIGHT – Lindy Hemming
THE DUCHESS – Michael O'Connor
REVOLUTIONARY ROAD – Albert Wolsky

SOUND

CHANGELING – Walt Martin, Alan Robert Murray, John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff
THE DARK KNIGHT – Lora Hirschberg, Richard King, Ed Novick, Gary Rizzo
QUANTUM OF SOLACE – Jimmy Boyle, Eddy Joseph, Chris Munro, Mike Prestwood Smith, Mark Taylor
SLUMDOG MILLIONARE – Glenn Freemantle, Resul Pookutty, Richard Pryke, Tom Sayers, Ian Tapp
WALL•E – Ben Burtt, Tom Myers, Michael Semanick, Matthew Wood

SPECIAL VISUAL EFFECTS

THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON – Eric Barba, Craig Barron, – Nathan McGuinness, Edson Williams
THE DARK KNIGHT – Chris Corbould, Nick Davis, Paul Franklin, Tim Webber
INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL – Pablo Helman
IRON MAN – Shane Patrick Mahan, John Nelson, Ben Snow
QUANTUM OF SOLACE – Chris Corbould, Kevin Tod Haug

MAKE UP & HAIR
THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON – Jean Black, Colleen Callaghan
THE DARK KNIGHT – Peter Robb-King
THE DUCHESS – Daniel Phillips, Jan Archibald
FROST/NIXON – Edouard Henriques, Kim Santantonio
MILK – Steven E. Anderson, Michael White








SHORT ANIMATION

CODSWALLOP – Greg McLeod, Myles McLeod
VARMINTS – Sue Goffe, Marc Craste
WALLACE AND GROMIT: A MATTER OF LOAF AND DEATH – Steve Pegram, Nick Park, Bob Baker

SHORT FILM

KINGSLAND #1 THE DREAMER – Kate Ogborn, Tony Grisoni
LOVE YOU MORE – Caroline Harvey, Sam Taylor-Wood, Patrick Marber
RALPH – Olivier Kaempfer, Alex Winckler
SEPTEMBER – Stewart le Maréchal, Esther May Campbell
VOYAGE D’AFFAIRES (THE BUSINESS TRIP) – Celine Quideau, Sean Ellis.
Some great films to look forward to, and best of British luck to all our contenders on ths night of the stars.

Friday, 9 January 2009

GREEN STREET REVISITED



My own list of 'away trips to be treated with caution' would include Spurs, Liverpool/Everton, Boro and West Ham: the latter being almost everyone's worst nightmare.American journalist Matt Buckner (Elijah Wood) finds himself firmly planted in the Upton Park mayhem when he arrives in England to stay with sister Shannon (Claire Forlani). Buckner's expulsion from Harvard - the result of taking a fall for his coke-addicted room-mate - is, along with his profession, kept secret from brother-in-law Steve(Marc Warren) and Pete (Charlie Hunnam); the self-styled 'top boy' in West Ham's Green Street Elite. Although Buckner receives a mostly hostile reception from this ultra-violent firm, the picture changes when a fierce encounter with Birmingham's mob sees him emerge with credit for standing his ground.As the film proceeds, Buckner gets deeper and deeper into the shadowy world of football violence, gaining respect from all but one of his fellow members: Bover (Leo Gregory) becomes jealous of Buckner's relationship with Pete and travels deep into the territory of the Hammers' biggest rivals, but for what reason?Following on from cult fave THE FOOTBALL FACTORY, Lexi Alexander's GREEN STREET features all the things you want and, possibly, a few that you never expected. Confrontations between rival fans are brutal in the extreme, capturing age-old rivalries with an intensity that will surely strike a chord with all those who played (and still play) the game. Strong stuff indeed, but Green Street also demonstrates that many of the combatants are decent people in everyday life with responsible jobs, solid family backgrounds and firm values regarding the things that really matter. Alexander successfully touches base with all the above, and is equally adept at painting the darker side of human nature where individuals grasp the baton handed down by relatives and friends to engage in organised warfare with likeminded people. Although I still believe the definitive 'Firms' picture has still to be made (maybe Danny Boyle will do the honours?), Green Street is, for now, more than good enough. The involvement of Dougie Brimson (script and production) may raise a few hackles amongst past and present boys, and a few scenes (the Manchester 'off', Shannon's appearance during the climax) are possibly a bit hard to swallow, but this should not detract from a job well done. Wood, Warren, Forlani and Hunnam are all excellent, and do look out for Geoff Bell as Millwall's number one: perhaps the most loathesome Cockney screen villain since Sexy Beast's Don Logan.


23rd March will see the DVD release of the follow up: GREEN STREET 2: STAND YOUR GROUND. While I initially welcomed news of this sequel, reading the synopsis has somewhat diluted my initial enthusiasm.


Following the deadly climax of "Green Street Hooligans," several members of the West Ham firm and numerous members of Millwall end up in jail. The GSE quickly discover the brutality of life on the inside, as they are constant targets of the superior numbers and better-financed Millwall crew. Football on the inside and out is followed fervently by the prisoners and wins and losses by both are quickly followed by punishment or reward. This could mean a beating or an extra shower or a day of visitation, which inspires extreme behavior. When overcrowding compels a need for the early release of a fortunate few, fate brings West Ham and Millwall together again this time on a Pitch. The stakes are the highest they have ever been for all concerned with death or freedom quite literally a goal away. Game on.


Ah well, let's keep an open mind for now. I'll be reviewing this one soon as it hits the racks.

Friday, 2 January 2009

BLU FOR YOU

Early days yet, but so far I've been mightily impressed with the Blu-ray player my wife won a couple of weeks ago. While we don't really have the cash to splash out on a bunch of new discs, my monthly subscription to Lovefilm rentals has enabled me to check out a few titles, and a couple of Xmas presents have started what looks like being a s-l-o-w-l-y growing collection. No problems with that whatsoever. We count ourselves extremely fortunate to have won a Blu-ray. It's a Bush, loads films far quicker than I thought would be the case and delivers stunning picture quality. Yes, it's an entry-level player and won't be as good as the Panasonic's or Sony's of this world, but it'll do just fine for us. I have 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY and ZODIAC director's cut waiting until I get a dozen or so spare hours, and I've rented THE DARK KNIGHT, MAMMA MIA and INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE . Nolan's film in particular looks simply wonderful, and I wasn't in the least surprised to read it had shipped over 100,000 copies in the UK on the day of release. A word of praise, too, for MAMMA MIA. I'd seen the stage show in London the year it was released, and went away with mixed feelings but greatly enjoyed the film. Sure, you can pick any number of holes in this production but it made us smile and that's a valuable commodity in the current climate.


Of course, Blu-ray won't shift the number of units it was originally hoped for in 2009 as the current recession will continue to bite for some time to come. However, this format has shipped in impressive numbers, with many mouth-watering titles to come. The likes of the ALIEN movies, LORD OF THE RINGS, STAR WARS and other blockbusters will be mega sellers, and tempt many folks to take the plunge. The cost of players has already come down and will doubtless continue to do so, while the deals on software will get better and better. While it may be some time before we get the likes of Bava, prime time Argento and Hammer product on Blu-ray, the format will get there, I'm sure. Plenty to look forward to!

MEMENTO: 10 OF THE BEST FROM THE JAM



One of England's finest, The Jam entered my life with a great debut album and a gig at Derby's Kings Hall that ranks amongst the very best I've attended. It's a hard job choosing my 10 favourite tracks, but an enjoyable one. Feel free to list your own picks in the comments below.



1/ 'Down In The Tube Station At Midnight'. "I first felt a fist, and then a kick. I could now smell their breath. They smelt of pubs, and Wormwood Scrubs and too many right wing meetings". The song they always used to finish with before the encores, and my own favourite. Weller conjures up all manner of chills with this frightening tale of menace on the London Underground. Brutal and brilliant!



2/ 'A' Bomb In Wardour Street'. "If this is freedom I don't understand, 'cause it seems like madness to me". How right he was. Now, our streets are unsafe to walk at night, unless you have a guardian A looking over your shoulder. This track is pure dynamite as Weller spits out lyrics with the venom of a cage of Puff Adders. Far-seeing, and even more disturbing now.



3/ 'Going Underground'. "And the public gets what the public wants, but I want nothing this society's got". Weller on the attack again with this scathing indictment of governmental evils. Open your eyes now as then.



4/ 'Strange Town'. "I look in the mirror but I can't be seen, just a thin clean layer of Mr. Sheen looking back at me oh oh, ohoooooooh". Glorious anthem and just about the best song ever written about the loneliness of London.



5/ 'When You're Young'. "But you find out life isn't like that. It's so hard to comprehend, when you set up your dreams to have them smashed in the end". Part of their 'Golden Run' when every single was absolutely perfect, and every gig reached out and sucked you into a better place for 100 minutes. Savage, and beautifully written.



6/ 'That's Entertainment'. "A smash of glass and the rumble of boots. An electric train and a ripped up phone booth. Paint splattered walls and the cry of a tom cat, lights going out and a kick in the balls". Poetry set to music. Still gets to me, and that's what Weller intended.



7/ 'Town Called Malice'. "Stop dreaming of the quiet life, cos it's the one you'll never know". Memories of Woking for Mr. Weller, and A Love Supreme(s). Dynamite!



8/ 'The Eton Rifles'. "Sup up your beer and collect your fags, there's a row goin' on down near Slough". A call to arms for any impressionable young men who longed to take it to the upper-classes. By this time, they really were a force to be reckoned with.



9/ 'Thick As Thieves'. "We stole the love from young girls in ivory towers, we stole autumn leaves and summer showers. We stole the silent wind that says you are free, we stole everything that we could see". Stack this one up with Jonesy's 'Stay Free'. Great vocal and some of the most alive lyrics you'll ever hear.



10/ 'Butterfly Collector'. "There's tarts and whores but you're much more. You're a different kind cos you want their mind". You got hate mail! This song (b side of 'Strange Town') was always one of the highlights of their shows. You really would want PW on your side; even more so after listening to the lyrics on this.


11/ 'David Watts'. Ok, I am a dull and simple lad, cannot tell ele-ven from ten.... couldn't leave this one out. Cheers to Ray Davies, and to Paul and the guys for making it even more special.


I was lucky enough to see The Jam live on 14 occasions. Their 2 nights at Leicester De Montfort Hall will always reside in my top gigs list, and although I felt great sadness when they split, the memories they left behind are to be treasured.